Women Walking in Victory & Empowered Men Service Center


FALL 2016

Determined to Succeed Recovery comes from within, but its impact is far-reaching

• Untreated mental illness can be the root of addiction • Brotherhood abounds at Empowered Men Service Center



CALL US TODAY (267) 319-1851


CONTENTS To send a comment or question, write to: WOMEN WALKING IN VICTORY & EMPOWERED MEN SERVICE CENTER 2441 N 29th St, Philadelphia, PA 19132 INTERESTED IN MORE FROM WWVEM? To learn more about our resources for living a healthy lifestyle, call (267) 319-1851 or visit us on the web wwvem.org. Copyright 2016 by CRG Media . No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, excepting brief quotations in connection with reviews written specifically for inclusions in magazines or newspapers, or limited excerpts strictly for personal use. Printed in the United States of America. All rights reserved. WWVEM Magazine is published by CRG Media

Women Walking in Victory & Empowered Men Service Center

FALL 2016

FEATURES 08 LEADINGWITH PRINCIPLE Love, care and respect: Three simple virtues that go a long way 12 A GIVING COMMUNITY Serving the community and each other in a shared journey 16 LONG ROADTORECOVERY Find a fresh start on a path rich with opportunity 46 MENOFTHE HOUSE Brotherhood abounds at Empowered Men Service Center 50 THE RIGHTMEDICINE Untreated mental illness can be the root of addiction. Treat it first. 54 DETERMINEDTO SUCCEED Recovery comes from within, but its impact is far-reaching 60 STRONGERTOGETHER Residents build lifelong bonds for a prosperous future in recovery

IN THE NEWS 24 BOOMING PROBLEM Elderly substance abuse issues expected to grow as baby boomers age 26 STARTING YOUNG Insight into adolescent addiction comes as new guidelines urge early prevention 28 FIGHTING FORTHE BRAIN DISEASEMODEL Model can complicate messaging in treatment plans 30 THEMISSING LINK Integrated treatment works best for victims of sexual abuse who are also addicts 32 RECOVERY U More college campuses are dedicating housing to students recovering from addiction

34 LEARNINGTODRINK Study finds alcohol changes the brain from the very first drink 36 ARE VACCINESTHE ANSWER? A new vaccine has been shown to prevent overdoses and stop opioid “designer drugs” from affecting the brain 38 FROM SMOKINGTODRINKING Marijuana users are five times more likely to develop an alcohol abuse disorder, according to a new study 40 THETURNING POINT New study looks to pinpoint transition from prescription opioids to heroin 44 GENERATIONAL BRAINDAMAGE Drinking during pregnancy presents parents with challenges beyond their own sobriety


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The Women Walking in Victory and Empowered Men’s program is a true transitional housing program for adult men with a minimum of 30-days of on-going abstinence from drugs and/or alcohol. The men’s transitional living program provides a semi-structured, supportive environment. The program is supervised by WWVEM staff and is supported by peer-to-peer house-fathers. Our facilities are kept extremely clean and are equipped with all the amenities one needs in order to be comfortable and feel safe.


Leading With Principle Women’s Coordinator helps clients navigate the early stages of recovery As the women’s coordinator for Women Walking in Victory (WWIV), Lisa Smith provides clients with support in three major areas: love, care and respect. “I give them respect just how I want to be treated,” Smith says, “and I have so much respect for these ladies.” During her own history as a victim of domestic abuse, Smith says she recognized when it was time to leave a bad situation, and she became a client of WWIV herself. She now works to convey a message of hope to the women she works with. She wants them to know that it’s possible to make it through life’s toughest challenges — addiction, abuse, and otherwise — and emerge victorious. But overcoming a struggle requires sacrifice. For Smith, part of her sacrifice included uprooting her life in Delaware to relocate away from her family and former career and into a WWIV home in Philadelphia. She knows the risks of going back to potentially dangerous situations, and is happy with her new life in Philadelphia, a life she never predicted.

“I give them respect, just how I want to be treated, and I have so much respect for these ladies.” – Lisa Smith, Women’s Coordinator


“She’d look at me and say, ‘there’s something about you.’” – Lisa Smith, Women’s Coordinator

Benefits package Smith is quick to note the parallels between her growth within WWIV as a client and as an employee, and the natural progression that brought increased responsibility as a resident, culminating in employment. Through speaking engagements, overseeing the houses and interacting with the women she can help, she is constantly reminded of the difficulties that brought her to WWIV. She learns vicariously to avoid many of the issues she didn’t experience firsthand. Smith says she is constantly learning from the women she works with. Hearing about the other women’s negative consequences as a result of drug and alcohol use deepens her own resolve to not make the same kinds of choices. Smith appreciates her lasting relationships with the clients, but she knows that there comes a time when every woman must move on from the program to continue their new lives. “I tell them to try and get yourself together,” she says, “and establish some stability in your life that’s gonna carry you through life independently.” And that stability is founded on Smith’s principles of love, care and respect. 9

A natural fit Smith says she developed her caring nature from a family that instilled strong values in her, values she passes on to clients at WWIV. “My family is caring, loving and had respect for other people,” she says. She learned compassion from her mother, and practiced it as a mother herself. So when she sees a newcomer in one of the houses, she works to comfort them by relaying her own story, one of humility, perseverance and success. “I get [new clients] in a one-on-one and let them know what I have been through,” she says. “I tell them to sit back and give themselves some time.” From her early days as a client, Smith has displayed hard work, patience and especially attentiveness. She’s a constant observer of the happenings in the homes, and says this enables her to provide support where it is most needed. She says others started to notice her unprompted assistance, and her gentle leadership qualities stood out to her peers and the organization’s founder, Renee Payton. “Miss Renee would come to have a meeting at the houses, and I’d just sit there and listen and be quiet,” Smith says, “and she’d look at me and say, ‘There’s something about you.’”



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A Giving Community Housing program offers clients a way to replace the cycle of addiction with a constructive alternative

The heart of Women Walking in Victory and Empowered Men Service Center (WWIV & EMSC) is its no-cost housing program, built upon a foundation of giving. Provided with housing and the essentials for living, women and men at WWIV & EMSC are enabled to provide for one another, and for the community at large. Donations from Holy Ghost Headquarters Revival Center and the community in Philadelphia have fueled the program since its grassroots origin in 2000, when founder and CEO Renee Payton handed out food, clothing and blankets to the homeless in front of the church. In the following years, participants started to receive housing in a program that has grown to its current state of 13 houses, providing food, shelter and clothing for up to 200 people at any given time. Their basic needs met, Payton says residents are able to give to one another, providing support and wisdom through their shared stories and experiences. Meanwhile, they participate in more tangible acts of charity by sorting donations and keeping the homes in pristine order.The giving isn’t limited to inside the program. Women and men at WWIV & EMSC volunteer their time and skills through community-based service projects to help out the community helping them.

“It’s like they’re in a cocoon when they get here, and when they come out they’re like a butterfly.” – Renee Payton, Founder and CEO

Metamorphosis Escaping the destructive cycle of addiction is no easy feat, especially, says Payton, for the many residents who enter the program with “literally nothing” - no identification, no belongings, oftentimes approaching a state of hopelessness. “Some people can’t get clean because they’re worrying about not having a place to live,” Payton says. “I let them know that as long as I’m living, they never have to worry about having a roof over their heads.” With a new home, new community and programs in place to help residents regain stability, Payton has seen lives transformed time and again. “The blessing is to watch the lives of people change,” she says. “It’s like they’re in a cocoon when they get here, and when they come out they’re like a butterfly.”

“As long as I’m living, they never have to worry about having a roof over their

heads.” –Renee Payton

Growing in faith and numbers In addition to giving, Payton cites faith as a key factor for a successful recovery. “When you are in recovery, the spiritual part is the first part,” she says. She says that giving her life over to God sparked her own recovery from drug addiction and crime more than two decades ago, and she watches the pattern repeat itself through WWIV & EMSC clients. They attend church together every week at Holy Ghost Headquarters. “I’ve watched and seen people with faith come from nothing and get jobs,” she says. “I’ve seen them come from here and open up recovery houses of their own.” As some clients branch out and open their own recovery houses, WWIV & EMSC is growing, too. Payton hopes to bring the program to Delaware, a state she says is in dire need of recovery houses. She also looks forward to increasing the number and scope of resources available to clients. And she remains modest, attributing all the success to a Higher Power. “You know God has His hand in things when you have no funding and yet continue to grow as a community and expand,” she says. “All I did was put myself in the position to be used by Him.”



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The women’s transitional living program provides a semi-structured, supportive environment. The program is supervised by WWVEM staff and is supported by peer-to-peer house-mothers. Our facilities are kept extremely clean and are equipped with all the amenities one needs in order to be comfortable and feel safe.

If you have any questions, call us


Long Road to Recovery EMSC client finds success after decades of addiction The road to recovery can be long and filled with obstacles at every turn. Few people know that journey better than Darrien James. “It started at a very young age. My first drugs were marijuana and alcohol at age 11,” James says. “I’m 51 now, so I’ve been battling with this addiction for 40 years.” After being released from prison last summer, James found himself right back in his old life of active addiction. So he checked himself into a treatment center and decided to commit to change. “I had a fear of going back out and getting high,” James says. “It put too much mental strain on me and I just didn’t want to live that way anymore.” James’ counselor suggested he look at the Empowered Men Service Center (EMSC), where staff quickly helped him find supportive transitional housing. He arrived in October of last year and has been with the organization ever since. “I never thought in my wildest dreams that [my addiction] would lead to this,” James says. “But now that I’m in this process, it’s a great feeling.” “That was a great feeling, to have somebody have faith in me.” - Darrien James , EMSC client

Taking charge James has taken a very active role in his recovery, faithfully attending group meetings and traveling to Narcotics Anonymous conventions in several states. He says the programming and services at EMSC moti vated him to take charge of his situation and work for a better life. “The opportunity that it gave me is to become a manageable person and a productive member of society,” James says. “I’ve never had that way of life before I got here and so I’m very grateful for this program.” James also credits the program’s staff with giving him a chance at a fresh start. He’s particularly thankful for Renee Payton, the program’s founder and CEO, who he says is always there to listen to clients and help them with whatever they need. James says he appreciates every thing she’s done for him, especially when she made the decision to hire him as a house manager. “That was a great feeling, to have somebody have faith in me, believe in me,” James says. “I got the opportunity to better myself.”


Hard work pays off James takes his role of house manager seriously, saying he tries to lead by example and show that recovery is possible even after de cades of addiction. He says every one in his home works to support one another and keep each other moving in the right direction. “The program here at the house is great because it’s an atmosphere of recovery,” James says. “We’re our own leaders.”

 change, gradually,” James says. “You have to work to get where I’m at today.” James is looking to enroll in school this fall with the hopes of becom ing a behavioral specialist. He knows the classes will be difficult, but he’s accustomed to hard work. He understands better than most that change doesn’t come easily or quickly, but he says he’s excited to continue on his long journey to recovery. “Through this process, I see the

“You have to work to get where I’m at today.” - Darrien James , EMSC client

WWVEM staff pictured from left to right: Tesla Wills, Christine Scott, Lisa Smith


If you are looking for a safe environment to recover, call us today! (267) 319-1851

Seniors 55 years and over who require transitional housing will love our approach and our facilities. Our desire is to allow you to remain independent for as long as you are able in a clean, safe and supportive environment.



Our vision is to bring restoration to people by providing resources for education, outpatient services, job readiness, spiritual guidance and mentoring.



Women Walking In Victory (WWIV) is a non-profit organization established in 2000. We started out as an outreach ministry that met the needs of homeless women and children in need of food and clothing. We went into shelters to provide counseling and resources to persons who suffered with substance abuse. In 2006, WWIV became a residential and transitional housing facility specializing in recovery, restoration, and resources. In 2010, WWIV changed its name to Women Walking in Victory and Empowered Men Service Center (WWV & EMSC) to accommodate the growing number of men that were in need of resources similar to the women. Soon after, WWV & EMSC increased the amount of houses that were designated for men.

To nd out more about us, give us a call:



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“Everything we know about older adults and substance abuse probably doesn’t apply to Baby Boomers.” - Dr. Alexis Kuerbis, CUNY - Hunter College 24

overall numbers present a problem. “We’re grossly understaffed in being able to handle these problems,” says Dr. Dan Blazer, a psychiatrist at Duke University who has studied the issue extensive ly. “It’s a problem. I think it’s a problem that’s going to get larger as time goes on and we’re probably already seeing evidence of that.” But there’s also an issue of attitude. Baby Boomers, in general, have a more relaxed view of substance use, and experts fear they may carry those behaviors later into life. “There’s no evidence that they’re going to automati cally stop when they hit 65 years old,” Dr. Blazer says. “They’ve used them all their life, they say, ‘Why shouldn’t I use them now?’”

Even though elderly people show substance abuse issues in a much lower percentage than other age groups, the problem is more prevalent than many realize. And it appears it’s only going to get worse. Studies vary, but generally show between 2.2 and 9 percent of older adults have an alcohol use disorder, and experts say they’re already seeing a rise in marijuana and opioid abuse issues. With the large population of Baby Boomers aging, substance abuse numbers in the elderly population are expected to continue to rise, presenting serious problems for treatment providers and family members. Researchers say the problem is two-fold: part is sheer numbers, the other is attitude. With the number of older adults in the U.S. expected to increase from 40.3 million to 72.1 million between 2010 and 2030,

Experts say the lifestyle of elderly people presents a unique challenge for physicians and treatment providers. For example, because retired people don’t work, substance use doesn’t present a problem at their jobs, a HIDDEN DANGERS typical red ag for younger people. Experts also say too often doctors fall victim to their own prejudices and don’t ask the right questions that could lead to a diagnosis.

substance use. Although success rates in treatment can be better for older adults, the way they’re treated isn’t necessarily the same. Dr. Sacco says older adults respond better to more collaborative treatment programs that give them options. “For so long it was trying to t older adults into these programs, but now it might be changing these programs to t older adults,” Dr. Sacco says.

“People think this person doesn’t look like a substance user,” says Dr. Paul Sacco, an expert on substance abuse in older adults. “Sometimes physical problems associated with alcohol abuse are assumed to have a different cause in older adults.” Substance abuse can be even riskier for older adults as their bodies become less resistant to the stresses brought on by


different for an older adult.” But because Baby Boomers use substances more than previous senior groups have, experts say treatment providers may have to nd new ways to treat an old problem. “Everything we know about older adults and substance abuse probably doesn’t apply to Baby Boomers,” Dr. Kuerbis says. “All bets are off.”

To mitigate the expected problems as much as possible, experts say we need to train more counselors and physicians on how to best treat older adults, and how to spot potential problems in the rst place. “With just a little bit of education about older adults, I think you could make a very big impact,” says Dr. Alexis Kuerbis, a researcher who also works with older adults. “The rst step is awareness on what might be

“We’re grossly understaffed in being able to handle these problems.” - Dr. Dan Blazer, Duke University

StartingYoung Insight into adolescent addiction comes as new guidelines urge early prevention

Treatment providers have known for years that adolescents are more susceptible to drug use and consequently, addiction. But now they might know why. Researchers recently discovered a specific pathway in the brain that makes adolescents more prone to problematic substance use, which could lead to stronger prevention efforts. By studying how cocaine affected the behavior of young and adult mice differently, researchers found that a mechanism in the brain which regulates specific protein production also controls addictive behaviors. By manipulating that mechanism, researchers were able to mitigate cocaine’s addictive effects. “Now we have a bidirectional switch that can turn on and off the cocaine-induced changes in the brain,” says lead researcher Dr. Mauro Costa-Mattioli of the Baylor College of Medicine.

“ The excitement of this study is that now perhaps we have a signalling pathway that could be targeted for the treatment of addiction. ”

- Dr. Mauro Costa-Mattioli, Baylor College of Medicine

One size fits all What’s most exciting about the study is that the pathway does not appear to be specific to cocaine. A second study examining nicotine returned similar results, leading researchers to believe any treatments targeting the pathway would be effective for all substances. “In the case of nicotine, it’s exactly the same thing,” Dr. Costa-Mattioli says. “All the drugs of abuse, they reduce the activity, they hijack or change this mechanism.” Researchers say they’re still interested to see if the mechanism plays a role in the transition from social substance use to more problematic use. But they say simply identifying such a crucial link of the substance use chain could lead to significant prevention methods. “Of course, the excitement of this study is that now perhaps we have a signalling pathway that could be targeted for the treatment of addiction,” Dr. Costa-Mattioli says.


Total improvement Experts say the benefits of implementing early intervention efforts far outweigh the cost. Although limited data exists, studies show investing just one dollar can produce anywhere from a few dollars to $26 in cost savings down the road. “Thus a well-designed, well implemented early childhood intervention can dramatically benefit the community and society as well as improve children’s and families’ quality of life,” Dr. Volkow says. But the benefits of early intervention go beyond substance abuse. Experts say many of the risk factors for substance abuse are the same indicators for other social, behavioral and academic problems. They say creating a prevention program to address and reduce the risk of substance abuse will pay big dividends across the board. “Interventions designed to reduce early risk factors show benefits in a wide range of areas,” Dr. Volkow says. “Including improved personal and social functioning, better performance in school, and less involvement with the juvenile justice system or mental health services.” 

“ Early childhood intervention can dramatically benefit the community and society as well as improve children ’ s and families ’ quality of life. ” - Dr. Nora Volkow, NIDA director

First eight years To address adolescent drug use, experts say prevention efforts have to start earlier than most would expect.The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the government’s top agency on substance use, recently released new guidelines suggesting prevention education should start in the first eight years of a child’s life. Officials acknowledge that early childhood is not a time period normally associated with drug use. But they say factors with family, school and community environments can shape development of certain emotional and behavioral issues that can manifest in substance abuse problems even decades later. “Central to intervening early is the idea of shifting the balance of risk and protective factors in a way that builds a foundation for optimal social development and resilience,” says NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow.


“The concept of addiction as a disease of the brain challenges deeply ingrained values about self-determination and personal responsibility.” – Dr. Nora Volkow, Dr. George Koob, Dr. AThomas McLellan

Fighting for the Brain Disease Model Model can complicate messaging in treatment plans

Fighting public opinion can be an uphill battle, sometimes even a futile one. Despite years of progress and scientific advancements, researchers and treatment providers still find themselves having to convince the general public that substance use disorder is a disease. But it’s a message that can often complicate treatment plans as much as it seeks to inform.


Setting the Record Straight Earlier this year, three of the nation’s leading drug experts wrote a paper seeking to explain, once and for all, how substance use affects the brain in the same way as similar diseases. In an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow, NIAAA Director Dr. George Koob, and Treatment Research Institute founder Dr. AThomas McLellan say they hope to reaffirm the brain disease model while simultaneously addressing common misconceptions about addiction. “The concept of addiction as a disease of the brain challenges deeply ingrained values about self-determination and personal responsibility that frame drug use as a voluntary, hedonistic act,” the authors write. The authors argue that public skepticism about the brain disease model comes from researchers’ inability to articulately describe the relationship between changes in neurobiology and the behaviors associated with addiction. Although countless scientific studies have proven the brain disease model to be accurate and effective, the authors admit more work may be needed to change public perception. “A more comprehensive understanding of the brain disease model of addiction may help to moderate some of the moral judgment attached to addictive behaviors and foster more scientific and public health–oriented approaches to prevention and treatment,” the authors write.

“You have to emphasize the responsibility on the part of the person, but you also have to explain why the behaviors are happening.” – Bob Rohret, MARRCH executive director

 Scientific studies attest that a person’s brain chemistry can be altered as a result of addiction.This fact can provide a needed explanation as to why continued use can still be a problem for people who clearly desire to get clean. “When you start to apply an explanation of why certain behaviors occur,” Rohret says, “it provides people some comfort in understanding why they’re doing what they’re doing.” Mixed Messages But as confident as many in the medical community are about the nature of substance abuse disorder, the idea that addiction is a disease presents something of a double-edged sword for treatment providers. “The messaging has to be sort of finessed,” says Bob Rohret, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Resources for Recovery and Chemical Health (MARRCH). “You have to emphasize the responsibility on the part of the person, but you also have to explain why the behaviors are happening.” Rohret says treatment providers have to inform those in recovery about the nature of their disease, while also making sure knowledge of that disease doesn’t become a crutch or an excuse for inaction. When presented correctly, Rohret says patients should understand their addiction and responsibility toward it in much the same way someone with heart disease may understand their affliction. Although they cannot change the biological makeup of their body immediately, they can make behavioral changes and take actionable steps that lead to more positive outcomes.


Integrated treatment works best for victims of sexual abuse who are also addicts. Researchers have found a dramatic link between the

“ 1 out of every

occurrence of sexual abuse and substance abuse. According to alcoholrehab.com, “sexual abuse victims are three times more likely to suffer depression, six times more likely to suffer PTSD, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol and 26 times more likely to abuse drugs than those who have not been sexually abused.” They go on to say that one out of every six women and one in 33 men in America have been the victim of sexual assault or rape in their lifetime.

6 women and one in 33 men in America have been the victim of sexual assault or rape in their lifetime. ” -alcoholrehab.com

Integrated treatment

Treatment centers are beginning to recognize the need for integrated treatment techniques for victims undergoing substance abuse recovery. Since there’s such a high prevalence of sexual abuse among addicts, integrated treatment offers a fuller recovery for sexual abuse victims. Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is one common form of treatment. In CBT, individuals are offered psychoeducation, therapy instructing and empowering them to deal with their condition in an optimal way. Stress management tools are also helpful. Individuals can be taught to change their situations or their reactions and how to maintain appropriate personal boundaries. The regulation of emotions can be a challenge for a person who has been sexually abused. In CBT, clients learn what emotions are socially tolerable and they learn how to be flexible enough to permit some spontaneity. Survivors are also taught how to delay emotional reactions as necessary.

Individuals can be taught to change their situations or their reactions, and how to take good care of themselves.

 Integrated treatment for those suffering from substance abuse addiction and sexual abuse greatly increases the chance that this person will remain sober for the long haul.They can also experience greater joy and healing than if they were treated for substance abuse alone. Telling their story One effective aspect of CBT is for the person to do a “trauma narrative.” In addition to telling their story by the spoken word or writing it down, they can also use drawing, painting or other art forms to communicate the trauma.The narrative can then be shared with a safe person, like a trained therapist or substance abuse counselor.The hope is that the survivor will be able to let go of some of the trauma. Healing can then take place. Another facet of CBT is behavior management training. Clients are encouraged to stay calm in an emotionally charged situation, manage their own responses, learn what limits are appropriate, handle challenging questions and learn how to prevent physical confrontations with others. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), survivors are also encouraged to do what they can to heal themselves. Good sleep and nutrition, exercise, and regular routines like starting and ending the day in a peaceful way are a good place to start for people from this background. Those in recovery are also urged to write down leisure activities they find enjoyable and engage in those activities regularly. Clients are also encouraged to use journaling and inspirational reading to further grow in their recovery. Finally, having a supportive group of friends and family will help an individual recover emotionally from this kind of trauma.


INSERT 5 More college campuses are dedicating housing to students recovering from addiction

House parties, keg stands and spring break. The stereotypical images of American college life may revolve around drinking and party culture, but that image may be changing as more universities look to make campus a welcoming space for recovering addicts to live and learn. In the fall of 2016, a growing number of colleges will debut new Living-Learning Communities (LLCs)

speci cally for people in recovery. While LLCs typically occupy a oor of a dormitory and center on a shared interest or academic eld, these new student housing sections will provide a safe and positive environment for recovering students

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to see implemented at the university,” says Dr. Gerard Love, a drug and counseling professor at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania where a new eight-person LLC will open in the fall of 2016. Slippery Rock of cials hope to offer recovery-related programming at least once a week with topics such as nutrition, team building and spirituality. The hope is that the apartment-style living space will provide students a network to help them focus on both academics and recovery..





“I see them as being leaders here on campus.”

– Kris Barry, University of Minnesota - Rochester


“It’s really just about being around like-minded people and developing that ‘we’ as a support system.”

INSERT 5 – Dr. Gerard Love, Slippery Rock University

“Universities are supposed to be about dialogue, and having this is a great opportunity for dialogue,” Dr. Love says. “Bringing this whole notion of addiction out of the shadows and increasing understanding, I think will be a good byproduct of this.”

“It’s really just about being around like-minded people and developing that ‘we’ as a support system,” Dr. Love says. Dr. Love says simply having a recovery space on a college campus could help change perceptions about recovery and remove the stigma surrounding addiction.

Of cials at the University of Minnesota – Rochester will also be opening a new recovery LLC for the fall 2016 semester. Of cials say it’s necessary to provide recovering students with the tools they need to succeed academically and in their personal lives. “Historically, students who are in recovery really struggle to come back to campus without that [supportive housing] program,” says Kris Barry, the school’s health and wellness advocate. The LLC will house six to 10 students and feature evidence-based recovery programming. Of cials say the LLC speaks to the school’s mission as a health-focused university. But more than that, they say they hope to foster a culture of personal growth among all students, particularly those in recovery. “I see them as being leaders here on campus and then taking that and changing the dialogue about addiction,” Barry says. “We know that the traditional college experience can be hostile to the goals of anyone in recovery, and we want to support them as much as possible.”

Boyd Austin says student communities centered on recovery provide a welcome relief for students to explore their university in a supportive and positive way. “It o ers a space, it o ers a culture, it o ers a community of people who are engaging in college in the same way,” Boyd Austin says.

Experts say universities are increasingly adding recovery programs focused on creating a community among students, but ones incorporating housing are still few and far between. “This started about 30 years ago, but it has really taken off in the last 10 years,” says Amy Boyd Austin, president-elect of the Association of Recovery in Higher Education.


Learning to Drink

Study finds alcohol changes the brain from the very first drink

“ Drugs of abuse basically hijack the normal learning and memory processes. ” - Dr. Dorit Ron University of California - San Francisco

Preventing escalation

The NIAAA-funded study did not establish a relationship between initial use and addiction, or even problematic drinking. But the hope is that further understanding of how alcohol affects the brain initially could lead to better treatment and prevention efforts down the road. “If we can control that step, we may be able to prevent further escalation,” Dr. Ron says. More research is needed to determine which other components of the brain are affected by initial alcohol exposure. Dr. Ron says she believes the changes that occur during first exposure could be reversed with prolonged abstinence from alcohol. But she said the more a person drinks, the harder it is to reverse those changes as the brain forms stronger connections to drinking.

One drink is all it takes. That’s what one research team found when studying how even the first exposure to alcohol can affect a person’s brain. A team from the University of California - San Francisco exposed mice to alcohol and then studied the synapses (connections) in their brains.The team found that even the first drink produced significant changes in the brain’s biological structure, calling the changes a “learning event.” “This is basically the first step,” says Dr. Dorit Ron, one of the chief researchers. “You are basically placing a memory trace.” Dr. Ron says the entire study was based on the idea that “addiction, and not just alcohol addiction, is thought to be a maladaptive form of learning and memory.” In essence, the study showed that first exposure to alcohol primes the brain for further use and lays the foundation for future “learning.” “Drugs of abuse basically hijack the normal learning and memory processes,” Dr. Ron says. “The behavior becomes habit.”


Predicting behavior

A new study also suggests that the earlier a person starts drinking, the stronger those connections may become. Researchers recently set out to identify which substance people use first in their lives and found the majority of people try alcohol before any other substance.The team also looked at how a person’s age when they start drinking affects substance use later in life. Researchers say the earlier someone starts drinking, the more likely they are to use more than one illicit substance, and they’re also more likely to develop an addiction. “It’s a very nice predictor for polysubstance use,” says Dr. Adam Barry, the study’s chief author. “The later you delay, the closer you are to 21, the less likely you are to be alcohol dependent or dependent on other substances.”

“ Alcohol consumption among youth doesn’t occur in a vacuum. ” - Dr. Adam Barry, Texas A&M University

 strategies that prevent drug use and then applying those in an alcohol setting.” Curbing use Researchers acknowledge there’s a difference between a first sip and a first binge drinking event. But they say age at first use of any kind is still a good predictor of behavior later in life. To combat problematic drinking, Dr. Barry says educators need to address all factors of a child’s life, not just the substance itself. In keeping with new guidelines from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Barry and his team recommend beginning substance education as early as third grade. “Alcohol consumption among youth doesn’t occur in a vacuum,” Dr. Barry says. “It’s really just trying to find evidence-based




Treating addiction with vaccines is a relatively new idea with many unanswered questions

that arise out of a lack of research. But a new study suggests vaccinating against illicit drugs is not only possible, it could be extremely effective. At the Scripps Research Institute in California, researchers were looking for a way to guard against the lethal and addictive effects of synthetic opioid “designer drugs.” A potentially deadly opioid, fentanyl, is often used as a heroin substitute or mix-in by drug dealers, so researchers developed a vaccine to try to mitigate its effects. Researchers injected mice with three rounds of the vaccine and then exposed them to doses of fentanyl. They found the vaccinated mice did not display any “high” behaviors even months after the last series of vaccine injections. Researchers say the immune systems of the mice developed antibodies that successfully blocked the drug from reaching the brain. “The results were the best we’ve ever seen for any drug vaccine,” says Paul Bremer, a graduate student at Scripps Research Institute who worked on the study.


The results were the best we’ve ever seen for any drug vaccine. - Paul Bremer, Scripps Research Institute


SAFE AND POWERFUL Not only was the vaccine able to stop intoxication (something researchers suggest could aid in opioid addiction treatment), the vaccine also proved extremely effective in blocking the potentially lethal effects of fentanyl as well. While the chemical is not necessarily toxic in itself, it does produce psychoactive effects that can shut down breathing and stop a person’s heart. Researchers say mice injected with the vaccine could withstand doses of fentanyl up to 30 times the normal rate. “It was just a rst generation vaccine, but it did prove to be very potent,” Bremer says. “We were able to block extremely large doses of fentanyl to protect against overdoses.” A SINGLE PURPOSE Researchers say the vaccine would not protect against heroin or oxycodone, and a mixture of vaccines would be needed to protect against all opioids. But that was somewhat by design. To make sure the vaccine would not interfere with any medications a person may take responsibly later in life, researchers targeted speci c molecules so the vaccine would only block fentanyl and its derivatives.

“For unrelated drugs that you would be taking, there would be no effect from the vaccine,” Bremer says. LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE Although still in the early stages of development, researchers say the vaccine represents an exciting step forward in drug vaccine research. The lab is beginning more advanced trials on a similar heroin vaccine which should give them a better idea of how successful the fentanyl vaccine could become. But until more testing can be completed, researchers say they were pleased with the progress and excited for the future of vaccines in the treatment of addiction. “This concept of using a vaccine for addiction isn’t just an academic pursuit, it could really be used in practice,” Bremer says. “I think it’s really promising.”

safe and powerful


Marijuana users are five times more likely to develop an alcohol abuse disorder, according to a new study

When it rains it pours. The old idiom may be familiar to many drug users who often find themselves battling more than one addiction. While previous research has shown multiple substance abuse disorders often go hand in hand, a new study suggests simply using marijuana can lead to a much higher risk of developing an alcohol use disorder.

Finding the Link Researchers at Columbia University analyzed data from 27,461 people who had used marijuana at the time of first testing, but had no history of alcohol related disorders. When researchers checked back three years later, they found marijuana users were five times more likely to have developed an alcohol abuse disorder.

Researchers said they were surprised the link wasn’t between marijuana use disorder, but simply marijuana use itself. “I think it’s important for people to be aware that there are certain behaviors that come with specific risks,” says Dr. Renee Goodwin, one of the lead researchers. “It would be particularly useful for youth.” Because youth are at a higher risk of experimenting with both drugs and alcohol, researchers said educating them about the total scope of risk is not only important, but could help curb problematic behaviors. “Preventing or delaying the onset of marijuana use could prevent or delay the onset of alcohol use disorder,” Dr. Goodwin says. “Statistically it should.”

“I think it’s important for people to be aware that there are certain behaviors that come with specific risks.” -Dr. Renee Goodwin


“Preventing or delaying the onset of marijuana use could prevent or delay the onset of alcohol use disorder.” -Dr. Renee Goodwin

Uses In Treatment For those already struggling with marijuana or alcohol use disorders, researchers said the knowledge that the two behaviors are linked could help people see the bigger picture of their addiction, and could prove useful in their journey toward recovery. “In some ways it may seem self evident, but it may not be,” Dr. Goodwin says. “If you’re trying to quit drinking, it’s good to know that quitting marijuana could increase your chance of being successful.”

Zero relationship to mood and anxiety disorders As marijuana use has increased in the U.S., with some states even voting for legalization, some have wondered what the psychological cost will be to users. To investigate the question further, other researchers at Columbia University also conducted a recent study to determine if a link exists between increased marijuana use and psychiatric disorders. Although the results, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, mimicked previous research in showing a strong relationship between marijuana use and other substance abuse disorders, the findings in regards to psychiatric disorders were much different. The study showed no relationship between marijuana use and increased instances of mood and anxiety disorders, only substance abuse disorders. But despite the lack of a connection, researchers still cautioned against public policy that could lead to increased marijuana use. “The lack of association between more frequent cannabis use with increased risk of most mood and anxiety disorders does not diminish the important public health significance of the association between cannabis use and increased prevalence and incidence of drug and alcohol use disorders,” the authors wrote. 


New study looks to pinpoint transition from prescription opioids to heroin

Stopping heroin use before it begins may be the best remedy for the country’s growing epidemic. A new study looks to pinpoint the times and ways that young people rst use the dangerous drug in hopes of strengthening prevention efforts. For three years, researchers at Wright State University tracked nearly 400 18- to 23-year-olds in Columbus, Ohio, who used illicit prescription opioids but were not opioid-dependent. Of the 362 participants, 27 eventually transitioned to heroin, a rate of 7.5 percent. “We were surprised at the number of people who transitioned to heroin,” says Dr. Robert Carlson, the study’s lead researcher. “We had really no idea of what exactly we’d be able to predict.”

Predicting risk

Researchers found several predictors of increased risk of heroin use, starting with the ways in which the opioids were being used. Those who crushed or snorted the prescription drugs were far more likely to transition to heroin. “It increases the speed at which the drug is hitting the system and makes people much more liable to becoming dependent,” Dr. Carlson says. “If people can become aware that if they even think about starting to use via a non-oral route, they are heading off on a very dangerous path.”


“We were surprised at the number of people who transitioned to heroin. ” - Dr. Robert Carlson, Wright State University

Racial divide

The new NIDA-funded study targeted 18- to 23-year-olds because they are arguably at the highest risk for substance abuse. The study did not look at other age groups. But when considering the factors that may move a person from prescription opioids to heroin, Dr. Carlson believes age is just a number. “I wouldn’t think the risk factors for transition to heroin would be much different regardless of age group,” Dr. Carlson says. While the risk factors may be the same across age groups, the most deadly effects of heroin use are not. Research has shown that those most at risk of a heroin-related overdose fall in the 25 to 44 age range. It’s important to keep in mind that the vast majority of prescription opioid users will not move on to heroin. And signi cant research is still needed to determine the social, environmental and biological factors that contribute to a person transitioning to heroin. But Dr. Carlson says he’s encouraged by the progress being made and believes the groundwork has been laid to develop effective treatment and intervention programs. “The really exciting thing to come out of this is it really gives us a rm foundation of some variables that could be targeted to prevent transition to heroin and transition to dependence,” Dr. Carlson says. Targeted approach The study also saw a difference in race among those who eventually turned to heroin. Despite roughly half the participants being African-American or Hispanic, all of the individuals who ultimately used heroin were white. Although the study could not determine the reasons behind such a strong racial divide, Dr. Carlson suggests that social networks, generational use and other circumstances could be signi cant factors. National data shows the heroin epidemic has increasingly hit white males the hardest. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that between 2002 and 2013, heroin use among non-Hispanic whites increased 114 percent. Age is just a number


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Drinking during pregnancy presents parents with challenges beyond their own sobriety

Since its first diagnosis in 1973, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) have shown how devastating drinking during pregnancy can be for an unborn child. Despite this fact, at least one in 10 pregnant women drink in the U.S. every year, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says children with FASD have physical issues like low birth weight and growth, problems with organ systems and damage to parts of the brain.These issues lead to behavioral and intellectual disabilities, hyperactivity, difficulty with attention, and poor communication, reasoning and judgment skills. The incurable situation can produce lifelong issues with school and social problems, mental health and substance abuse issues, difficulty keeping a job, living independently and having trouble with the law. In 2010, drinking while pregnant cost the U.S. $5.5 billion, says the CDC.

“ In 2010, drinking while pregnant cost the U.S. $5.5 billion. ” — Centers for Disease Control


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